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9 should be the magic number for the Cons-Court (High Courts) judges

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FB_IMG_1472905735111By Nsambila Mbolela

The 3-2 decision handed down on 5/9/2016 by the Constitution Court (Cons-Court) to halt hearing HH’s petition aggrieved by allegations of election rigging, did indeed make a nice or nasty dinner conversation for Zambian’s at home(ZAH) and Zambians living (ZLA). For PF supporters the news was like the annunciation-birth of the Messiah, whereas for UPND the news was like the crucifixion of the messiah. Whether PF or UPND, faith life is full of joyful and sorrowful mysteries, so is political life. Like my friend reminded me that, “judges have ruled-whether their decisions were flawed is another issue-those aggrieved (HH) if they don’t agree should appeal. As for me and possibly you too, we all know that in any legal system under the sun, there are moments when poor innocent people go to jail and guilty wealthy murderers get acquitted. Folks there are no perfect judicial decisions. You just have to learn to live with them and do your best to move one with life.

In the most recent elections, voting patterns have tended to be regional especially in rural areas. Even in the 11/8/2016 elections, it was sad to see no elected PF MP in Southern province and no elected UPND MP in Northern province. This should be a cause for concern. To me democratic elections are supposed to balance geographical representations in parliament. Just like it is equally important to have women in positions of power, it is equally important to have UPND in rural PF strongholds and vice versa. If not, we are not forming a one Zambia one nation. Rather we are forming regional tribal clans (MPs) in the name of democracy.

One clear thing that emerged from the Cons-Court is that on their own the courts can’t enforce their own decisions. The courts need the executive branch for support. In 1787, when USA was framing its constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote that, “the judiciary has no influence over either the sword or the purse”. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment.” The Court, Hamilton said, should be “the least dangerous” branch of government.

To expand and diversify legal opinions on issues of esteem importance like the application and interpretation of the constitution in moments of national dispute, I am hereby proposing to President elect Lungu to propose a ‘Judicial Reorganization Bill’, whereby all higher courts would increase the number of judges from 5 to 9. If we believe in the necessity to have the Cons-Court as the paramount court to hear and settle cases as the Court of last resort of upholding the rule of law, then we need to expand the number of judges. Even the bible says, “a nation perishes through a lack of guidance, but there is safety in the abundance of counselors (judges)”, Proverbs 11:14.

Since the constitution affords The president the sole power to nominate high court judges, it is important to expand and diversify the composition of the judges, through regional/geographical backgrounds to encourage judges to debate and challenge one another’s perspectives. 9 is such a magic number to foster such contrarian debates.

Considering that the Cons-Court has handed down this decision (on 5/9/2016) to move forward with president elect Lungu and to dununa reverse HH’s grievances, this decision will shape Zambia’s political history for better or force worse, from HH’s civil rights to election issues to the powers of economics and government. We should all care and acknowledge that we need more than 5 judges to undertake the enormous task of administering justice and fairness as the Court of last resort, with full-fledged final authority to interpret constitutional matters and uphold or reverse decisions made by other judges.

Expanding the number of sitting judges to 9, coupled with individuals with a great deal mixture of regional, religious, gender, educational and various tribal backgrounds willing to debate and challenge each other’s legal assumptions and perspectives, should foster the judicial environment to take its responsibilities seriously.

Clearly, waiting for the Cons-Court decision, on a Friday at 23:59hrs is not an assuring thing to the quality of the final product of all judicial deliberations-DECISION. In my view, the number 9 if composed of highly competent judges willing to challenge each other’s legal assumptions, will be the vital key differentiating factor to the success of our judicial system.

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10 Responses to 9 should be the magic number for the Cons-Court (High Courts) judges

  1. Pingback: 9 should be the magic number for the Cons-Court (High Courts) judges - Latest Africa News, Breaking News, Hot and Daily News

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31